Wednesday, January 14, 2009

PokerNews News

Changes, Next ExitMy association with PokerNews began around May 2007. Card Player had covered the World Series of Poker in ’06, then the next year Bluff secured the rights and an agreement was made to have PokerNews handle the live reporting. I came on board to help out with some background stuff and also write some for the site while all the first-stringers were in Vegas that summer. I have continued to work with PokerNews ever since.

Early last year John Caldwell, the Editor-in-Chief over at PN, asked me if I’d be interested in coming out to Vegas and helping with the live blogging at the WSOP. I took him up on the offer, and have noted here several times how positive an experience that was. As a poker player and fan, it was a blast to be there at the Rio for those seven weeks and experience the madness up close.

A huge part of what made the summer so satisfying -- both personally and professionally -- was the smart, supportive, fun group of folks with whom I got to work. I probably interacted with and in many cases worked closely with more than 50 different people, and I know there were more coming and going who were also part of the team. It really was a “team,” with everyone genuinely looking out for each other and committed to making the coverage as good as it could be.

And while there were other talented people who had a lot to do with the whole operation running so smoothly, Caldwell was the one overseeing the sucker. Hellmuth might’ve been prancing around the Rio in the general’s outfit, but Caldwell -- never one to seek such attention -- was the one leading troops.

Yesterday we heard the news that Caldwell had decided to step down from his post over at PokerNews. Dr. Pauly quickly posted his thoughts, and if you’re interested you might head over to Tao of Poker to see what he has to say and to read the comments, too, for others’ reactions.

Thought I’d also take the time to add my thanks here to Caldwell for the opportunities he’s sent my way, and for having done such a terrific job over the years helping build PokerNews up into a prominent part of the poker media landscape.

Wise Hand PokerIf you’re curious to learn more about Caldwell and/or PokerNews, you might check out the 3/26/08 episode of the Wise Hand Poker podcast on which Caldwell appeared as a guest. Gary Wise interviews Caldwell for the first half of that episode.

Wise and Caldwell began the show chatting some about the history of PokerNews (which first started up in late 2004), moved on to talk about Caldwell’s background working in the music industry, then spent the rest of the conversation discussing the role of poker media in general and PokerNews in particular. Last spring I wrote a post here, titled “Sunshine & Lollipops,” that focused on that latter portion of the interview, particularly the issue of how the poker media has to negotiate this sometimes-tricky business of reporting on subject matter -- i.e., gambling -- that certain segments of the general public find objectionable.

The first part of the interview -- the part in which Caldwell relates some of the background about PokerNews -- is interesting, too. Caldwell tells about the site’s humble beginnings, starting over at, then gravitating to, and how thanks to “a lot of hard work and a lot of belief” the site was able to grow.

John CaldwellCaldwell notes that a “big turning point” for him occurred when PokerNews began to focus on providing content in languages other than English. In 2005, a German version of the site was launched, then one in French, until eventually versions of the site became available in over 30 languages.

That meant finding qualified people in all of those countries to translate articles appearing on the main site, as well as to report on items of particular interest in to poker players and fans in those countries, too. A huge undertaking, to be sure. And fascinating, really, when one considers the extent of the site’s reach.

I do hope PokerNews makes it okay without Caldwell. And, of course, that Caldwell does well, too, without PokerNews.

The fact is, when it comes to poker media and the professional circuit, it is probably best to understand that nearly everything is subject to change at any moment. Tournament series appear and disappear, the WSOP is constantly revising itself, advertisers come and go, and thus are media outlets constantly affected by a myriad of forces that are mostly out of their control. Indeed, Caldwell’s lengthy tenure at PokerNews (going on five years) is something of an anomaly, really, insofar as he’s helped provide a kind of stability there that one doesn’t really find much elsewhere in the industry.

As I say, best of luck to Caldwell and his family. And to PokerNews, too.

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